Dear J.T. & Dale: I have a co-worker who calls in sick once a month. I started noticing that it always happens on the third Thursday of the month. To test my theory because I think my co-worker is faking sick, I mentioned to her the Wednesday before that I would need some help the next day on a time-sensitive project.
I was shocked when she confided that she would be calling in sick. When asked why, she explained that she has a killer part-time job filling in at a former employer. She asked me not to say anything. I’m not sure what to do. Something about it feels wrong. Do you think I should tell my boss? – Allison
DALE: That’s a bit of deduction worthy of a detective novel. In fact, knowing that there are HR people who’ll read this, I bet some of them right now are contemplating ways to examine employee absences for suspicious patterns.
J.T.: I guarantee you this: If management found out about the phony sick days, they would do something about it. What’s more worrisome is how they will react when they find out you were aware of it.
I’d begin by reviewing the rules in your employee handbook. I have a feeling it’s going to be quite clear that sick days are to be used only when you are genuinely ill. More importantly, see if the company has any policies regarding fellow employees hiding information.
DALE: I wouldn’t expect you to find a code of honor like at a military academy, but there still is a prickly loyalty issue. Say your employer makes the same connection you did and confronts your co-worker, then she confesses and says that she didn’t think it was a big deal and that others knew about it – you, for instance.
Now you look like a co-conspirator with more loyalty to a conniving colleague than to the organization, which may well be true, but you can’t expect the organization to be pleased with your priorities.
J.T.: I’d go back to your co-worker and tell her that what she is doing makes you uncomfortable, and explain how it puts your job at risk. Try to make her see that it’s in her best interests to head off the possibility of getting fired.
If she refuses, you’ll be forced to decide if you want to risk losing your job for the sake of this colleague. For me, that wouldn’t be a hard decision.
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